City previews 2013-2014 budget

Diane Xavier | 8/21/2013, 7:08 a.m.

The Dallas Examiner

The city of Dallas previewed their proposed annual budget for the fiscal year 2013-2014 during the Dallas City Council meeting held at Dallas City Hall last week.

Dallas Interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez introduced the budget.

“This budget was put together with the idea of strengthening services, restoring others where we couldn’t, and also restoring the economy,” Gonzales said.

Jeanne Chipperfield, chief financial officer for the city of Dallas, told members of the City Council that this budget is fiscally responsible.

“We strategically put the budget together to invest in improving the quality of life in Dallas,” Chipperfield said. “The fiscal year budget of 2013-2014 is balanced at totals $2.8 billion.”

She explained that the money from the city for the budget includes the continued improvement seen in the local economy.

“The money is demonstrated by a 4.27 percent growth in property values and sales tax collections remain strong,” she said. “There is also no property tax rate increase and we reduced the tax rate required to pay debt services by less than 30 percent.”

The expenses in this year’s budget include the hiring of 20 additional police officers above attrition, the funding of one step pay increases to retain newer officers, expanded paramedic training for firefighters, and the hiring of 10 additional 911 call takers and their training.

“The budget continues to restore and add to the most critical services we need during the economic downturn,” Chipperfield said. “We also need to catch up on paramedic training.”

Additional funds will be used for street maintenance, library materials and computers, improving the maintenance of parks, and an investment in the programming and marketing of Fair Park.

Chipperfield expressed that the balanced budget reflects the Council’s guiding principles focusing on investment in key focus areas such as: public safety, recreation departments, economic vibrancy, a clean and healthy environment, the culture and arts, educational enhancements, and an efficient, an effective and an economical government that “reflects the cautious optimism in the economy.”

“Dallas continues its post-recession stabilization and is experiencing areas of measured economic growth,” she said. “Although this period of growth is expected to continue, the city maintains a cautionary approach anticipating further growth in property values but moderating growth in sales tax. We’ve historically seen growth in sales tax.”

Another goal for the city in its proposed budget is public safety.

“The goal is to enhance public safety to ensure people feel safe and secure where they can live, work and play,” Chipperfield said.

Public safety services would include fire and rescue emergency response crews, police field patrols, and emergency medical services.

The city would like to hire 20 additional police officers above attrition to begin addressing population growth.

“We would fund a one-step pay increase and a full-year education pay for uniform police and fire personnel,” she said. “We would also fund 10 additional 911 call takers and training on the 911 call center. Other goals would be to replace 183 police squad cars and increase the number of firefighters receiving paramedic training and begin a community paramedic pilot program.”

In order to achieve economic vibrancy, the city’s goals include fostering a growing economy sustained by a healthy mix of local and international business opportunities.

Services for economic vibrancy include: traffic safety and congestion management, street service maintenance areas including street repairs, operation and maintenance of Fair Park that includes street lighting.

The city is also looking to invest $2 million in and around Fair Park that would fund the programming and marketing to increase foot traffic.

The city of Dallas is planning town hall meetings to address the budget and get input before they submit their official budget, which should be ready by Sept. 18.